Who Cares About SOPA?
SOPA is a serious issue. It’s a bill also known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, or H.R. 3621, and was introduced to make it easier for the U.S. government to fight piracy and copyright infringement online. As wonderful as that intention sounds, the bill has some serious flaws that make it a threat to free speech on the web as we currently know it.
Technology giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter have already publicly opposed the bill. If passed, online communities where user content is hosted could be entirely shut down if a small portion of users posted copyrighted material. Furthermore, the bill contains loose definition and opponents have pointed out ways the bill could be used as a means to shut down legitimate websites on the web if they posted information considered to be sensitive in nature. Human rights advocacy groups Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU have also come out against the bill.
The White House Responds
On Saturday, the White House issued an official response to citizens that signed a VETO SOPA petition on their website. I received the response in my email, but the entire release is available here. I’ve picked out a few highlights from the message which was crafted by members of the White House staff in technology, cybersecurity, and intellectual property protection.
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- “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression…”
- “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.”
- “While we are strongly committed to the vigorous enforcement of intellectual property rights, existing tools are not strong enough to root out the worst online pirates beyond our borders. “
- “Washington needs to hear your best ideas about how to clamp down on rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders.”
The message also divulged that petition organizers, and a random sampling of signers, would soon be invited to a conference call to discuss the issue further. To date it has 31 co-signers and is with the House Judiciary Committee.
Learn More & Make a Difference
If you enjoy your freedom on the web, I encourage you to learn more about SOPA and contact your local government representative. You can also join Reddit and other sites by blacking out your own domain on January 18th. Blacklisted websites could become all too common if such harsh legislation is passed. Visit sopablackout.org for a simple code to implement or checkout the WordPress plugin.
What are your thoughts on SOPA?
UPDATE: It appears that SOPA will be killed in the wake of massive negative public response and the White House response described above. The Senate version, PIPA is still alive.